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N.H. delegation asks feds for alternate power routes

New Hampshire’s congressional delegation yesterday asked the U.S. Department of Energy to provide details of alternative routes for a proposal to run electrical transmission lines from Canada to southern New Hampshire.

The DOE is preparing an Environmental Impact Study on the proposed Northern Pass, a $1.4 billion project that would transmit 1,200 megawatts of hydroelectric power from Hydro-Quebec into New England.

Opponents worry the project will damage the environment, scar the state’s scenic beauty and chase tourists away. Supporters point to job creation and to cleaner, renewable power helping to stabilize the New England energy market.

U.S. Sens. Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen and Congresswomen Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter want the department to issue a preliminary report on alternatives before finishing the EIS to allow people more time to study the effects. In a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, the four asked for a “thorough, transparent and effective EIS study.

“Given the public’s immense interest in studying alternatives, we are compelled to emphasize and renew our request that DOE provide a preliminary report detailing which alternatives will be studied, and that this report is made public prior to the completion of the draft EIS study,” they wrote.

Spokesmen for the Northern Pass project did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Project developers in June announced a new route that they said takes into account concerns raised over an earlier plan.

The 1,200 megawatts is enough to power 1.2 million homes. The project is expected to take three years to finish. Backers say $300 million a year would flow into the state and some 1,200 construction jobs would be created through regions hard hit by the closure of several paper mills.

If the DOE allows the project to go ahead, a nine-month, state Site Evaluation Committee review would follow. That review could begin by midyear.

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